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Friday, December 23, 2005

All is Calm?

Well, not quite…but it should be bright soon…

Sunday night, Nana Sadie Rose suffered serious water damage (accidental) from an upstairs neighbor. All fabrics were untouched and quickly removed from the space, as were all pieces of equipment. Everything remaining in the workspace was quickly tarped (my mom taught me to be prepared, so I have lots of plastic in the “emergency kit” - but no, this has never happened before!).

Bless my vet, I was able to move kitties out (on a holiday week!) to boarding, so the maintenance personnel could come in, knock out ceiling and walls, repair, patch, prime and paint. Everyone is coming home tonight (me, too!).

Fortunately this all happened after the last Nana Sadie Rose Christmas order was completed. I try to schedule down-time right after the rush is done…I’m always hopeful I’ll have enough energy to do a good cleaning and re-organizing of the space, as things tend to fall apart and get disorganized in the last weeks before Santa makes his appearance! Now, there will be no way to put this off! I’ve already gotten a good portion of the work done, with everything out of the space…so you know what I’ll be doing during the quieter times of the holiday, right?

Then the first of the year, get ready! There are new fabrics and a new style of bag on the horizon. I’ve been perking away with plans for the Sadie Teacher bag…prototype will be done by mid-January. My sister is planning two “Nana Sadie Rose” home parties in Northern Virginia for the last weekend in February where the Sadie Teacher bag will be unveiled! (Email me if you’d like to attend?)

(Oh, and if you get the opportunity, come see Nana Sadie Rose at the Star City Cat Fanciers Show on January 28-29, 2006 in Roanoke VA at the Clarion Hotel)
Happy Holidays!
(I promise, back to “philosophical” notes after the first of the year!)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why Shawls?

It’s a fairly well established fact that I’ve become addicted to shawls, to lace shawls specifically, in the past year. It’s interesting that I can’t quite put my finger on why. Why am I addicted to a garment that up until this year, I’d never worn? Now I make them and wear them - and wear them and wear them. I cannot imagine that I have survived almost half a century without owning one of these wondrous wraps. I remember a vague representation from childhood that shawls were what “little old ladies” wore, and I’ve just admitted that I’m about at the “age of maturity” (and a Nana to boot!). But these shawls are not what grandma wore. These shawls are works of art! They are lace!

Lace knitting, I believe, is an addictive process. Much like yoga or Zen meditation, the brain is slowed, the entire cardiac system follows suit, and a healthful, peaceful state is achieved. (I am not suggesting that lace knitting cannot also make the heart race, as happens when you’ve discovered an error in your work without having a lifeline in place!)

But that type of calm is addictive, especially when you’re the classic Type A personality that I am…I breed heart disease in every (short, shallow, tense) breath. Except when I’m knitting lace. When I knit lace, my breathing expands, my heart slows, my blood pressure drops. Combine lace knitting with a violin or cello concerto and I’m as close to nirvana as I can get.

Lace knitting is an artistic process, too. While at present, I knit other people’s art (other people’s lace shawl patterns) my art is in the details of stitches, colorations and textures. Perhaps one day, I’ll design my own lace shawl pattern, but for now I’m perfectly happy to render other people’s ideas in my own creations. The drama of a lace shawl, tossed over a simple top and slacks or long skirt showcases my knitting abilities and proclivities….

I’ve been asked what one does with more than one shawl. It’s a question of some amusement to me…what does one do with more than one sweater? As many yarns as there are to try, as many shawl patterns, the possibilities are simply endless. Shawls are a salvation in summer air conditioning, and extra warmth in chill winters when one is trying to keep the heating bill at a reasonable level.

If indeed a lace shawl knitter is put on this earth to accomplish a certain number of shawls in a lifetime, at present I’m too far behind to ever be concerned with dying. There are four in my home, ready to be knitted (the yarn and patterns purchased) and at least 4 more in the planning process (yarn and patterns chosen, but not purchased). Of course, there is one on the needles. Two lace shawls are complete.

I’ve completed a third shawl, a healing shawl, my first, in K3, P3 pattern that is not lace. I have another healing shawl in process, too. But the healing shawl movement is subject for another essay on another day.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Compulsion or Addiction?

Those two words have been used almost interchangeably for a good long time and by very learned people as well as those who aren’t so learned. I personally believe there is no difference between the two, but I’ve heard true addicts insist that a compulsion isn’t as severe as addiction - as in “I’m not addicted to alcohol, I’m a compulsive drinker - there’s a difference!” I don’t agree…

A compulsion is defined by as:
‘An irresistible impulse to act, regardless of the rationality of the motivation.
An act or acts performed in response to such an impulse.’

An Addiction is defined as (same source):
‘The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or (sic)involved in something. ‘

Since there truly doesn’t seem to be a difference, I’ll tell you where I’m heading with this: I am an addict. A fiber addict. I am completely irrational when it comes to such things. I adore fabric, I adore yarn. I would play with them all day if I could. I have an irrational need to be surrounded by color in the form of fabric (beautifully saturated cottons, especially) and yarns. I suspect that it would be enormously difficult for me to turn down a truly wondrous yarn, even if there were no food in my house (oh, well, maybe it’s not quite that bad - yet, anyway!).

I now have the yarn and patterns for 4 lace shawls purchased and waiting for me. Along with patterns for at least 6 more lace shawls that I’d love to make and wear. I’ve only managed to make 2 lace shawls since May. Add to that, I made my first shawl, a prayer shawl, in January/February: it’s not lace, but I love wrapping myself in it.

I can’t imagine that I can produce more than 4 in a year, along with the sewing for Nana Sadie Rose, and my other miscellaneous knitting projects, my job, my family, and a little something called sleep.

But I’m surely going to try to make all four every year…I guess that means I’m addicted to shawls, too?

I have high hopes for something to happen this winter: my office closes whenever the weather is bad enough that the local community college closes. I am dreaming of a very white winter…lots of closings, so I can play with my yarn, knitting shawls, listening to Mozart, and drinking Earl Grey tea, while my Siamese sits next to me just watching and waiting for me to miss her little paw sneaking out to catch the yarn.

Oh I have got it bad…

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Day Late...

That old saying is the perfect description of my normal behavior when it comes to planning…I’m always a day late and a dollar short! Now it’s time for Christmas planning, and surely better crafters than I have been hard at work for months on the gifts they intend to give.

I’m not even sure that I can make what I want to make (I suppose there’s a certain beauty to that, too - if I can’t figure it out, I can drop by the store and buy something last minute, right?). Making knitted gifts is something I’ve only tried once before (last year’s fun fur scarves) - as sewing is much more “up my alley.” But once again, I’m casting about (!) for something different to give, that won’t break the bank.

Since I’ve done the scarf thing, I hate to do it again, tho’ frankly, I do think that folks will enjoy more than one (and I might get pushed into it at the last minute). This year, however, I’ve decided to try to make my grandsons’ knitted hats! Since I’ve never made one before, this will be a challenge. I’ve had one experience on dpns and let’s just say that VooDoo is frogged till, perhaps, after the holidays!

So why do I always wait so long? (last winter, family gifts were crafted in the last 5 days before the “big day!”)

Maybe it’s denial? I promise myself that there really are more hours in the day and there aren’t? Or maybe it’s Polly-Anna-ish? I am SuperWoman and can accomplish much more than the normal woman in 24 hours?

Maybe it’s the proverbial “eyes bigger than the plate” syndrome…I want to give so much more than I’m capable of giving - hey if that were it, don’t you think I’d be crafting in January for the NEXT Christmas?

I think, tho’ that the reality is, life just gets in the way of my good intentions. That and the old “why do today what I can put off till tomorrow” procrastination thing. So I’ll go ahead with my plans, entirely larger than life, and get done what I can.

Oh, and I’ve still got Nana Sadie Rose orders and another craft show ahead of me!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Does Yarn Know What It Wants to Be?

Some of my knitting friends have commented on their blogs about their yarn “speaking” to them and letting them know that it didn’t want to be something they were trying to make it be, or that it was “happy” being made into something else. Ruinwen has discussed just this on her blog and those of us on the various Yahoo groups that Knitnana has listed on her blog (me, for those of you who don’t know!), have discussed this at some point or another, as well.

Just this week I cast on for my second Aibhlinn and Voodoo.

Aibhlinn is a wonderful pattern by Mary Burr. I loved making my first one which you can see on my knitting blog Knitnana and I’ve loved wearing it.

But I digress. I had skeins and skeins of Plymouth Encore DK in a black and cranberry tweed. I had originally thought that perhaps I’d knit a shawl, but there is so much acrylic in this yarn and I’m knitting lace shawls these days, which don’t take to acrylic well.

This yarn has been sitting and calling to me. I would never have truly thought a yarn could yearn. But this yarn has. It’s popped out of my storage box (from the BOTTOM of the box!), has fairly screeched at me when I put it back and put the top of the box back on. This yarn has been desperately begging to be something for months. There’s a funny story with this yarn. I bought it from a discount yarn store back in late winter, for something else entirely (I forget what), then decided I needed to make a shawl with it. But I didn’t have enough yarn. So I checked ebay and found exactly the correct number of skeins I needed in the SAME dyelot, and then won the auction! This was obviously meant to be. Till I realized there was too much acrylic to do lace well. Since then I’ve not known what to make with it…

So now, an Aibhlinn is on the needles and more than 6 inches completed - these bobbles were sooooo much easier to make than when I knitted it before in the cotton. Aibhlinn in Encore is knitting up so fast! And this week, for the first time, I’m trying out knitting on sticks in the round (Aibhlinn is knit in the round on circular needles) to make matching Voodoo fingerless gloves. This Encore is making this learning experience a breeze, too! (I’ve never knit socks or mittens)

So did this yarn know what it wanted (and just nudge me along till I figured it out)? It has to be the explanation. Why else would this yarn now seem content? It’s happy yarn making two happy items. And I think there might even be enough left to make a hat for my man…if he wants one, that is. Will the yarn be happy to keep his head warm? I hope so. We’ll see.

So the next time you try and try to make something and it just doesn’t seem to be working…try getting quiet and then… ask the yarn. You might be surprised by the answer you get! Just maybe some of the nicest knitting experiences you’ve ever had!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Teaching Old Dogs...

In the interest of reducing stress on my right shoulder, I’m trying to switch my knitting style from English to Continental.

I started another Aibhlinn from Knitty, thinking that the K3, P3 would be a relatively simple pattern that would give me lots of practice with Continental. I’m using a deep burgundy/black tweedy yarn, Plymouth Encore DK, to make it. If I succeed in this, my next “learning experience” will be using the same yarn to make fingerless gloves using dpns. (If I don’t succeed at Continental, I’m still going to try to make the gloves!)

I guess this means an “old dog” can learn new things? I’m spending a lot of time at Knitting Help watching the videos. They are such a help!

Hmmmm….my pattern came from online, the yarn was bought online, the knitting instruction is coming from online…I found my local knitting group online.

What on earth did we do before the internet? Oh, I know. We learned at our mother’s knee. Well, you know what? This old dog (taught English knitting by her Mom) was a pretty lousy knitter (because Mom only knew so much) until she “met” all the wonderful gals - they are mostly gals - on the internet who are part of the online knitting community.

I’m an in-betweener…one of those folks who came kicking and screaming into the computer-age. I watched as many of my contemporaries (and their parents) lost their jobs because computers were faster and handled the more mundane job activities. I made an early decision that I was going to know how to use computers even if I wasn’t fond of them. (And I really wasn’t.) I became a keypunch operator (back in the days of IBM cards?). And from there I morphed along with the technology (I remember going “live” for the first time on a main frame computer and threatening to throw the monitor through the window) as I put myself through college in accounting (more computers). Well, I’m relatively fond of the technology now, even tho’ computers still make me crazy more often than not! Still I can’t imagine life without mine.

I really do spend a lot of time online. There are those in the blogging community who have decided that they must take a break from blogging, from “wasting” time on the internet. Well, I admit that it’s very possible to do that. But I learn so much while I’m out here that I just can’t justify going offline. I respect those who choose to reduce the time they are online, but it’s not for me. Not right now, anyway.

Of course, I have a business online. I have two blogs. I own 3-4 Yahoo groups and participate in a few others. I can’t imagine reducing my internet time without sacrificing a lot of knowledge.

And besides, if I truly want to knit instead, I’ll do like my pal Jane and knit at the computer while I read blogs!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sadie's Place

I’ve thought that Sadie’s Place should be a comfortable spot, filled with plants and sunlight, cats, and cushions. A wonderful spot to curl up and read in a window seat, to sit in an old oak rocking chair to knit, or to work at any of the various stations throughout the space to sew, weave, or quilt.

The walls of Sadie’s Place are lined with antique barrister, glass-front bookcases filled with fabric, books, and baskets of yarn. In one corner, in front of the woodstove/fireplace, you’ll find a window seat, the rocker, and several vintage, overstuffed chairs arranged around a warm, but worn, vintage Persian carpet. The chairs are all covered with white denim slipcovers to make everything look the same. But everyone knows that Nana Sadie has a weakness for collecting interesting chairs, so nothing really matches! And you never know when there’ll be a “new” old chair pulled up with the others, from one of her latest junking trips. Knitted and quilted lap throws and shawls abound on chair backs. Needlepoint footstools stand ready for feet to prop upon.

Floor pillows made of kilims are piled invitingly, waiting for overflow seating to be needed. Friends stop by often and the knitting group drops by every week to enjoy a bit of conversation and a cup of tea, made in the nearby kitchenette. Yarn is piled in the baskets near this corner, along with knitting books in the bookcases and spilling out onto the floor. There’s plenty of space for the spinners in the group to set up their wheels and spin awhile. An antique secretary holds cross-stitch and needlepoint patterns and supplies, and near Nana Sadie’s chair is a large daylight floor lamp to help her see her charts.

Above the bookcases and on any available free wall space are prints from Susan Loy, the Literary Calligraphist extraordinaire, her floral renditions of great writer’s words repeating the live flowers and plants throughout the room, as well as those seen out the windows in the meadows beyond.

The floor loom and the quilt frame, both vintage oak, share the middle of the room and are set upon polished hardwood floors. A quilt is usually in the frame, and oak church pews sit ready for anyone who drops in and wants to add a stitch or two. The loom is set up with a simple floor rug in the works and ready for the weekly lessons from the teacher who drops by to show Nana Sadie just how this new craft is done.

On one side of the room is the more modern sewing station, with Berninas at the ready. A TV and VCR set-up assist in learning new techniques. Sewing books and fabrics line the white laminate shelves on this side of the room. The ironing board and cutting tables are nearby, so there are few steps to take when making Nana Sadie Rose’s totes and purses. There are rolling bins with buttons and notions. Vintage sewing machines and implements decorate the area. Not too far away is the mailing station where shipping takes place. After all, Sadie’s Place is not just for relaxation, but for the work Sadie does from home.

Classical cello or violin music from the CD player fills the air, and cats are curled on window ledges and the perches of the 2 floor-to-ceiling cat trees in the room. At Sadie’s Place there are no limits on the number of kitties that a person can have. And Sadie rescues meezer kitties. Warm brown and ivory bodies stretch and purr in the sunlight streaming through the windows, winking an occasional sapphire eye.

Last of all, the computer, printer, and digital equipment for photographing Nana Sadie Rose’s bags, for managing the business, and for keeping up to date with the on-line knitting community stand with file cabinets and more shelves.

This special creative workspace is only partially in my head (and your’s too, now). Some of what I’ve described is real at Nana Sadie’s now.

But if I could only win that $100 million to make it all reality!